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House budget chair Travis Cummings. Speaker Jose Oliva

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Bolster reserves, says House budget chief Travis Cummings

$400M of new money in play.

For the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, an optimistic revenue forecast means a chance to be more “aggressive” with reserves.

Rep. Travis Cummings, the Fleming Island Republican who chairs the powerful committee, hailed a recent prediction that the state will be more flush with cash the next fiscal year.

The Revenue Estimating Conference suggests that the state could have $400 million more to deploy, as POLITICO Florida reported.

Cummings says that cash should go to reserves.

“I do think that the Legislature needs to get more aggressive in funding our reserves by taking advantage of the increase in state revenues just announced by the REC,” Cummings noted. “We have a duty to best position Florida and future legislatures long after we leave our service in Tallahassee.”

Cummings, like his Senate counterpart Rob Bradley, wants strong reserves.

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants 6% of the budget set aside in a rainy-day fund. State economists, meanwhile, continue to warn of a recession this year or next.

Meanwhile, Cummings is optimistic that some progress can be made on teacher pay, a position perhaps borne out by a House committee locating nearly $460 million for teacher raises in a budget reprioritization exercise last week.

That money would somewhat accommodate the Governor’s $600 million proposal to raise the base salary for staring teachers to $47,500 a year.

“The Governor fully understands that it is now our time to put our handprints on his proposal. We greatly appreciate our teachers and the boldness of our Governor, but as appropriators, we want to ensure that any increases to teacher pay are both equitable and sustainable,” Cummings noted.

This issue will be lively through March.

“Teacher pay will be heavily discussed due to the significance of the funding and ensuring that any model is fair and equitable to all teachers,” Cummings noted.

There are basic agreements that something must be done, but the mechanisms of such will be a taffy pull.

Speaking of taffy pulls, the state’s approach to tourism marketing, via VISIT FLORIDA.

“I do think the House has been effective in helping to reform Visit Florida, as well as proving it can be very successful with less taxpayer funding,” Cummings said.

The agency is still working through cuts made last summer, and urges against near-term reductions.

Meanwhile, DeSantis, expecting it to be a “source of some contention,” used the $50 million carveout from 2019 as a starting point for his 2020 budget proposal.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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